Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What's in a name? Alexandra Watkins, founder of the naming firm, Eat My Words, talks about "Hello, My Name is Awesome," why the wrong name can be ruination. Plus, name a cowboy boot store and you could win her book!

Who came up with the name Scrabble? (Unforgettable and fun to say, right?) Who thought that Svbtle was a good name? (Can you pronounce it? How about trying to find it online?) The right name for a product--or a book--can snag someone's attention or make bile rise in a throat. That's where professional namers come in.

Being a professional namer is one of the coolest jobs around. And I'm lucky enough to be able to work for the coolest company around, Eat My Words, a nationally recognized naming firm featured in the Wall Street Journal and Inc, with a client list that boasts Disney, Microsoft, Wrigley, Turner Networks and Fujitsu. Founder Alexandra Watkins is a genius. Really. And to celebrate the publication of "Hello, My Name is Awesome. How to Create Brand Names that Stick," she's offering a give-away of three books for the lucky winners of a naming contest. The naming brief? Imagine a store set in the heart of a big city that sells nothing but cowboy boots for women. The imaginary client wants something playful, easy to remember and would prefer that the word "boot" not appear in the name. A name of a real cowboy boot store that the client likes: Space Cowboy. Ideas or words that the client would like you to explore: kick, fun, cowboy, range, wrangle.

Put your name choice or choices in the comments section and Alexandra will choose the three best next week! (And yes, those are my beauties in the photograph!)

Why is the right name so important?

Your name will last longer than any investment you make in your business. Look into your crystal ball… will you have the same computer, cell phone, printer, and office furnishings twenty years from now? Not likely. But you will have the same name. That’s why it’s important you spend the time to get it right. And like a tattoo, you better love it and be proud to show it off.

Why can the wrong name be a disaster?  

The wrong name can be a disaster because it can make your brand unapproachable because it annoys, frustrates or confuses potential customers. The random names are the worst. One name I wonder about a lot is Vungle. I have no idea what this company does. I don't want to know. (Please don’t tell me.) It sounds like an STD. Likewise, can you guess what companies Qdoba, Magoosh, Iggli, Kiip, Zippil, or Zumper do?  Me neither. And I don’t care to find out.

Tell us about the SMILE & SCRATCH Test…

The Eat My Words SMILE & SCRATCH Test is my proven 12-step name evaluation method based on my philosophy, “A name should make you smile, instead of scratch your head.” With this simple checklist, anyone can objectively evaluate names.

SMILE: The 5 Qualities of a Super Sticky Name

Suggestive – evokes something about your brand

Meaningful – resonates with your audience
Imagery – is visually evocative to aid in memory
Legs – lends itself to a theme for extended mileage
Emotional – moves people

SCRATCH: The 7 Deadly Sins

Spelling-challenged – looks like a typo
Copycat – similar to competitors’ names
Restrictive – limits future growth
Annoying – forced, frustrates customers
Tame – flat, descriptive, uninspired
Curse of Knowledge – only insiders get it
Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious or is unapproachable

My book breaks down the SMILE and SCRATCH Test into two chapters, giving detailed examples for each.

What are the biggest mistake people make in choosing names?

The biggest mistake people make when choosing a name is asking everyone they know to weigh in. Asking people what they think shows a lack of confidence. They are not experts on your brand. You are. They are not knowledgeable about what makes a great name. You are (if you have read my book). Imagine if Richard Branson had asked others to weigh in on the name Virgin. It would have never flown. Trust yourself on what feels right to you. When you ask your friends and family, "What do you think of this name?” they interpret it as an invitation to criticize. It's better just to tell people, "I’m excited to tell you about my new company, _________..." Please trust me on this. If you ask everyone to chime in, you will end up with a mediocre name that met with the least resistance rather than the very best name.

This blog has a lot of writers, so can you tell us all what's a big mistake in naming novels?

Copycat titles are the worst. You know the ones I’m talking about…

Hijacking another author’s original idea isn’t good for your reputation or for building trust with your readers. Copycat names are lazy, lack originality and blatantly ride on the coattails of another book’s success.

Book titles need to not only be original, they need to make powerful emotional connections with readers. Like brand names, they need to resonate with your audience. Titles should pique curiosity and arouse interest – and you can’t rely on the cover to do all the work because often times your title will appear naked, in black and white, listed in print (hopefully on the New York Times Best Sellers list). Be sure to imagine your book title will be a movie title, as well. Here are some innovative book titles, which all were made into movies. Coincidence? Maybe not.

Girl, Interrupted

The Accidental Tourist

The Hunger Games

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

The Shawshank Redemption

I personally think that your book can be helpful beyond the simple art of naming things or companies or books. It pushes you to start thinking in a more creative way about everything and how to brainstorm so it's fun as well as productive. Would you talk about this, please?

 The internet is a goldmine for brainstorming solo. When you brainstorm online, you’ll find yourself clicking on unexpected links and going down all kinds of rabbit holes. You never know where a good idea will come from. Of course online dictionaries and thesauruses are great for this. One of my riches resources for brainstorming is looking at images. A picture says a thousand words, right? Stock photo websites such as bigstockphoto.com and gettyimages.com are fantastic places to get fresh ideas especially because you can search by concepts (e.g. “happy”) to find related imagery. I personally like to use Google images because the amateur photos are more fun to look through and it’s endlessly entertaining.

The whole concept of your company, the name, and your office, are all so playful…

Thanks. I came up with the name Eat My Words because I started out by naming things that make people fat and drunk. When I expanded from potato chips to microchips, the name still fit. The theme of “food” is also highly extendable, as we’ve discovered at Eat My Words:

·      Blog name: “The Kitchen Sink”

·      info@ email: hungry@eatmywords.com

·      Service packages: “Snack,” “The Whole Enchilada,” “Just the Meat.”

·      Client parking sign: “Eat My Words’ client parking only. Violators will be eaten.”

·      Business card: pink retro refrigerator, a replica of the one in our office, which we use as a bookcase

·      Wireless network name: “Candyland”

·      Meeting materials: toast coasters, pens that look like licorice sticks, “Food for Thought” notepads

·      Corporate workshops: “Spilling the Beans”       

What's obsessing you now and why?

Next Monday, September 15th is my book launch so I am obsessing over Amazon sales rankings and what it will take to crack the top 10 in my category and achieve “best seller” status. 

What question didn't I ask that I should have?....

Do authors need to get the domain name for their book title?

No, no, no! This is so not important. My publisher told me that one of their authors dismissed a fantastic book title because they couldn’t get an exact match domain name. That’s ridiculous! Major motion picture studios always use a domain name modifier for movie websites, (e.g. ___movie.com, ____themovie.com) and you can do the same for your book title, (e.g. ___book.com, ____thebook.com). If you have a long title, you may want to shorten your domain name to something memorable. HMNIA.com would be a horrible domain name for my book, Hello, My Name is Awesome. Since I had a microsite built off my regular website, I just made it awesomebook.eatmywords.com.


Caroline Leavitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caroline Leavitt said...


Kym R said...

Name for the urban cowboy boot store: City Kickers.

Like the idea of the "scratch test"; am now looking forward to reading Hello.

Caroline said...

Kym R! Looks like you are the winner! Email me your address (carleavitt@hotmail.com) and a book will be sent to you. Thanks to everyone else who privately emailed me!